Is Trophy Hunting A Failure In Botswana


Recently, Dr Adam Cruise published a Report arguing that Community-Based Natural Resources management (CBNRM) programme especially trophy hunting in Botswana is a failure and does not benefit local communities but foreign safari companies and hunters.

The debate on trophy hunting and photographic tourism will always exist between conservationists, host communities, academics, tourism practitioners, anti-hunting groups, hunters, decision/policy makers and those in the political realm. It will always be debated both in Botswana, Africa and around the world.

That is, the debate between photographic tourism and trophy hunting will always be made whether undertaken by the rural communities under the CBNRM programme in communal concessions or in state land or private ranches. In addition, the debate will always be undertaken whether there is a decline in or an increase of a particular wildlife species.  

As a result, I don’t think there is a one size fit all solution to this debate. Again, it is rather unfair to generalise results for regions and countries. For example, elephant populations in East Africa, North Africa or Central Africa are different from those of Southern Africa.

We found this debate and we will leave it and the younger generations will pick it up. However, a sustainable solution is required based on global acceptable standards such as the United National Sustainable tourism framework. I partially my response to Dr Adam Cruise, I will summarise some of my past findings as follows:

1.CBNRM has had mixed results (i.e. in some areas CBNRM has succeeded and has collapsed in some areas) – In my 2015 article: Joseph E. Mbaiwa (2015) titled “Ecotourism in Botswana: 30 years later” published in Journal of Ecotourism, 14:2-3, 204-222. I made this conclusion:

“Results indicate that in its 30 years of existence in the Okavango Delta, ecotourism had mixed results. That is, it succeeded in some areas and failed in others. Where ecotourism succeeded, it generated economic benefits such as income and employment opportunities, leading to positive attitudes of residents towards ecotourism and conservation. Where ecotourism failed, the lack of entrepreneurship, and managerial and marketing skills of local communities are cited as some of the key factors contributing to the failure of projects”.

2.Trophy Hunting and Photographic tourism are both credible land use options and should not compete but complement each other – In the article:  Joseph Elizeri Mbaiwa & Wame L. Hambira (2021): Can the subaltern speak? Contradictions in trophy hunting and wildlife conservation trajectory in Botswana, Journal of Sustainable Tourism. I make the following analysis:

“…..wildlife conservation should not be a competition between actors and stakeholders where the voice of the subaltern is side-lined by those with power, money and influence. Instead, trophy hunting and photographic tourism should be understood as land use options that should complement each other. Photographic tourism should be carried out in prime wildlife areas while trophy hunting is undertaken in marginal areas and buffer zones where photographic tourism is not viable”.

In this article, my argument is that all stakeholders in the game should have a voice in the decision-making process that concerns their lives. Ignoring the voices of the communities who live in wildlife areas will not help conservation. Gunn (2001:89) argues: “whatever we may think of trophy hunting… at present, it is a necessary part of wildlife conservation in Southern Africa” hence the need to ingrate it in land use planning.

Photo-tourism and hunting have both made substantial and separate contributions to the economic welfare of rural communal residents. Naidoo et al. (2016) argue that a focus on either one or the other would lead to substantial reductions in overall benefit generation and incentives for wildlife conservation throughout the country.

Readers need to appreciate that photographic tourism is not the panacea to all conservation and poverty problems in Botswana. The two land use options should be considered with each done accordingly at a decision-making level in government. My conclusion therefore is that CBNRM, photographic tourism and trophy hunting all have a role to play in the socio-economic and political development of Botswana.


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